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Great Cars of All Time: Fascinating stories of the origin, development, and famous feats of the world's most exciting automobiles

Great Cars of All Time: Fascinating stories of the origin, development, and famous feats of the world's most exciting automobiles

Автором Irving Robbin

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Great Cars of All Time: Fascinating stories of the origin, development, and famous feats of the world's most exciting automobiles

Автором Irving Robbin

261 pages
2 hours
Dec 29, 2015


“ … For enthusiasts of every age, here is a gallery of great cars from the beginning to the present day. Each of these machines has its own claim to fame—some for fabulous styling, some for technical developments that changed the course of automotive history, some for racing prowess, and some for sheer “personality.” For each chapter there is a beautiful full-page color portrait of the car in its proper setting.
The text is no mere description of the machines. With authority, enthusiasm and wit the author traces the history of each make, illuminating the characters of both cars and men with spine-tingling racing adventures and inside anecdotes. While the story of each make is complete in itself and may be read alone, the book as a whole provides a panorama of automotive history.
The story of cars is, of course, also the story of men—some of the most colorful figures of the modern world—drivers such as Nuvolari, Oldfield, Fangio: engineers such as Bugatti, Ford, and Porsche. But cars are the real heroes of this book; in these words and pictures they emerge, not as mere collections of nuts and bolts and sheet metal, but as creatures with a kind of life of their own. A life that embodies the urge to freedom and adventure, the pride and love of beauty of both their creators and their users.” (New York – 1960)
Dec 29, 2015

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Great Cars of All Time - Irving Robbin


Fascinating stories of the origin, development, and famous feats of the world's most exciting automobiles

By Irving Robbin

Illustrated by Herb Mott

New digital edition of:

Great Cars of All Time

by Irving Robbin

© 1960 by Grosset & Dunlap

Copyright © 2015 - Edizioni Savine

All Rights Reserved

Strada provinciale 1 del Tronto

64010 – Ancarano (TE) – Italy

email: info@edizionisavine.it

web: www.edizionisavine.com

ISBN 978-88-96365-73-1






DAIMLER - In the beginning ...

THE STANLEY STEAMER - The Flying Teakettle

PEUGEOT - The Light Touch

OLDSMOBILE - A Long Life and a Merry One

FORD - The Immortal Flivver

BUGATTI - The Incomparable Bug

PACKARD - Ask The Man Who Owned One

MERCEDES - The Silver Bullet


PIERCE-ARROW - From a Gilded Cage

CADILLAC - The Status Symbol

ROLLS-ROYCE - The Best Car in the World

ALFA-ROMEO - The Roman Conqueror

MERCER - The Rousing Raceabout

STUTZ - The Car That Made Good in a Day

BENTLEY - The Big Brutes

CITROEN - Vive la France!

DUESENBERG - It’s a Doozy!

LINCOLN - A Generous Dash of Style

MG - The Mighty Midget

CHRYSLER - Number Three Arrives

CORD - Born Too Soon

JAGUAR - The Fierce Cat

FERRARI - The Prancing Horse

JEEP - Love at First Sight

VOLKSWAGEN - The Enduring Beetle

PORSCHE - Son of the Beetle

CORVETTE An Awakening in Detroit


COMPETITION - Skill is the winner


When I was a boy in the late 1920’s status was achieved among my contemporaries by being able to identify cars. In those days it was possible to tell a Marmon from a Pierce, an Essex from a Graham-Paige, a Packard from a Duesenberg. Not only was this possible, but it could be done at a distance of four city blocks. Every car had different features; radiator ornaments; slope of the grill; type of wheels; all of these could be spotted in an instant. They even had distinctive sounds. The 1931 Chevrolets all had squeaky clutch springs and I can still remember the flat exhaust sound of the Graham-Paige.

Today’s cars have a nearly uniform appearance and performance that seems to correspond to the great wave of conformity in other parts of our society. But a breath of fresh air blew over the land recently. The European imports introduced an entirely new set of shapes, sounds, and colors. The sports cars recreated the joy of driving and the compacts reminded us that a car could be economical. The Detroit manufacturers have taken up the challenge; conformity has been broken and keen competition flourishes.

This book is a gallery of some of the great cars that have appeared on the automotive scene. In addition to the historical facts, I have included the racing triumphs and some pointed anecdotes. I expect the outcries at the selection of cars to be loud and furious. Where is the Franklin? The Darracq? The Moon? To satisfy everyone this book would have to become a twenty volume set. During American automotive history alone, there have been more than 2500 different makes available. To add the European marques would create a monumental list. The cars in this volume were chosen because they represented landmarks in automotive history. Some for styling, some for technical developments, and some for superior racing prowess. They are by no means all the great cars and all the landmarks, but each is great.

While the accounts of each make may be read separately, taken together they should provide a fairly comprehensive history of the development of the automobile. Each car is treated in terms of the period in which it arose and perhaps this book will also help to explain the impact of the automobile on human life. Of all man’s inventions, the motor car has done most to free people from their tight communities and parochial views. No longer do we stand in awe of the person who, like the Mark Twain character, achieved fame by traveling once in his lifetime to Washington, D. C.

Irving Robbin


The wheel is the truly original invention of the human race. Every other device has a precedent somewhere in Nature, but a wheel freely spinning on an axle was unknown to the universe until man put his unique brain to work.

The idea of the wheel undoubtedly began with observation of partial rotary motion. Human arms and legs have ball and socket joints that permit a certain amount of free motion, and there are many other similar mechanical relationships throughout Nature. From these observations it was a short step to the hand drill, wherein a cylindrical rod was spun by hand and then by a bow string. But the next step took a very long time. There are records of man as a tool user that go back almost half a million years, and yet it was not until some six thousand years ago that the wheel made its appearance. One of the early contributing concepts was stone door sockets featuring projecting pins that revolved in hollow stone bearings. But the Neolithic potter’s wheel represented the first real spinning motion. The early ones had stone bosses on the wheel which fitted into sockets. From a boss to an axle is a logical development and it came about very rapidly. Not more than several hundred years more passed before man became wheel-borne. The automobile was on its way!

When viewed with the long time scale of mankind’s full history, the motor car seems to have been invented only a few days after the wheel came along! When one considers that half a million years passed between the first tool and the first wheel, the period of only six thousand years from that wheel to the motor car is really minute. It is a graphic demonstration of the surging geometric progression that marks man’s knowledge and technology.

Once the wheel was placed on an axle with a retaining hub, all sorts of wheeled vehicles were developed. Of necessity they were animal drawn, but man’s inventiveness soon asserted itself and many forms of sophisticated suspensions and steering mechanisms appeared. But this was not quite what was wanted.

Man had a centuries-old dream: to get into a vehicle, move a lever, and go wherever he might desire. It was a striving for a greater freedom than his legs afforded. So powered vehicles were attempted. There are records of cars with masts and sails, cars run by clockwork, and cars run by water cascading from a tank onto a vaned wheel. But none of these was really satisfactory. Man did not want to be dependent on the winds, the water supply, or the strength of an animal. Complete freedom was the ultimate goal and this burning desire finally resulted in the invention of the self-powered motor car.

Man has yet another burning desire. The fierce urge to compete. From the days of the early prehistoric cave dwellers until now, men have raced anything that could be made to move. With the invention of the wheel and its application to a vehicle, racing machinery became possible. The early Egyptians and Assyrians developed high-speed chariots, horse drawn of course! But a racing tradition began and somewhere in the dim mists of antiquity men greased axles, counted laps, and tried to develop faster horses. Somewhere on earth during the dawn of civilization the first pit stop must have been made. Perhaps it was to change horses or substitute wheels of different diameter, but the intent was the same as today: to field a faster, more durable vehicle and to finish first.

We have come a long way since that first pit stop. People now travel great distances in luxury that the Roman emperors never dreamed of. Costly limousines share our well-paved roads with durable little bugs and flashy sports cars. And off the roads, on the race courses, snarling exhausts and bright blurs of color carry on a racing tradition practiced centuries ago in the Roman Colosseum.

Gottfried Daimler perfects his engine.


In the beginning ...

The automobile did not come into being in a flash of one man’s inspiration. To the Daimler is usually accorded the honor of being the first motor car, but there are many who dispute the claim. One thing is certain: the first self-propelled wheeled vehicle was a steam car and there were many of them before the Daimler. But automotive historians usually exclude the steam cars from the discussion, because they were not direct ancestors of the modern car. The history of the automobile as we know it begins with the internal combustion engine.

What is an internal combustion engine? For the purpose of definition, let us assume that such an engine consists of an enclosed vessel into which an explosive or rapidly burning chemical is inserted. When this is ignited the expansion of the gases pushes a piston. The piston moves something else, and the something else makes wheels turn. All of this was done long before Daimler was bom.

Back in 1677 the Abbe Jean de Hautefeuille used gunpowder as the fuel. The idea seemed to have merit and he was followed in rapid succession by Christian Huygens and Denis Papin. But gunpowder was dangerous and difficult to handle; so in 1820 a man named Cecil, an English experimenter, used a mixture of air and hydrogen. This worked much better. Then William Barrett, also of England, added a pilot light to provide a constant ignition, and the internal combustion engine began to look practical. Etienne Lenoir of France made it even more practical. He used ordinary illuminating gas in 1859, and G. Schmidt of Germany introduced the idea of compressing the fuel-air mixture.

It seemed that the internal combustion engine was about ready to be invented. Step by step, country by country, the ideas and innovations were coming together. It finally remained for Alphonse Beau de Rochas, another Frenchman, to supply the first description of a four-cycle engine. This description will fit any modern engine, and de Rochas worked it out in 1862!

Then Nikolaus Otto built a working four-cycle engine in 1867 and obtained a patent ten years later. The Otto engine became the prototype for all future internal combustion engines. It served widely as a stationary industrial power source and played a large part in the industrialization of America.

Now the final step. Wheeled vehicles were common. The early steam cars had worked out many of the transmission problems and all that was left was to place an Otto-type engine in a vehicle. This too was done before Daimler. In 1862 Lenoir ran a sort of car with illuminating gas, but since the modern car operates on liquid petroleum fuel, Lenoir’s car cannot be called the first.

Siegfried Marcus of Germany really built the first car. He was a harum-scarum sort of inventor and putterer, but he did engineer a two-cycle machine in 1865. It ran, but somewhat crudely. Marcus then flitted away to other engineering projects. But in 1874 he returned to the automotive field. He produced a true four-cycle, four wheeled machine with electrical ignition, jet carburetion, and a throttle. In spite of all other claims, this can be called the first automobile. It still exists in a German museum.

The Siegfried Marcus car — 1874.

What about Gottfried Daimler? He is still called the inventor of the motor car. Well, so is a man named Karl Benz. To clear up this confusion we must insist that the first automobile be a true prototype of the modern car. Both men did it. The mechanical, electrical, and fueling systems used by Daimler and Benz most closely resemble those in use today. Therefore, both men really fathered the automobile. Benz produced a four-wheel car with a water cooled engine in 1885. Daimler’s similar machine appeared in 1886. But it is not wise to rely completely on the dates. The technological developments of over a century had progressed to a crucial point. The automobile was ready to be invented, and here were two men working simultaneously, each in complete ignorance of the other’s progress. In the long view of history, a year one way or the other is not important, and we may well consider that the modern motor car was first started by Gottfried Daimler and Karl Benz.

The word started is used advisedly, because in the opinion of most experts the Siegfried Marcus machine of 1874 was the first automobile. Had Marcus possessed the determination of either Daimler or Benz and developed his machine, the world today would acclaim him as the true inventor.

After Daimler and Benz had placed their machines on the roads of Europe, the idea of the automobile spread rapidly. England’s Edward Butler developed a powered tricycle in 1887.The Peugeot brothers were the first to develop a car in France. In the beginning they used a Daimler engine, but soon designed their own. Daimler engines saw wide service. As a power source they operated boats, and then took to the air. A Daimler engine flew one of the first dirigibles of Count Zeppelin.

Although a Daimler engine was brought to America, two Yankee inventors, Charles and Frank Duryea, were working on their own. In Springfield, Massachusetts, they built the first American automobile. That was 1892. They installed a

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